Romney, Republicans hit back with Obama 'redistribution' tape
September 19th, 2012
10:23 AM ET
11 years ago

Romney, Republicans hit back with Obama 'redistribution' tape

(CNN) – After withstanding searing criticism from both rivals and fellow Republicans on his secretly recorded remarks at a fund-raiser in May, Mitt Romney and his campaign are mounting a counter-offensive with a recording they hope will go viral as well: then-Illinois state Senator Barack Obama speaking favorably of "redistribution."

The audio clip first surfaced Tuesday, as Democrats were seizing upon their own video of Romney speaking at a private fund-raiser in Florida. That event was held in May.

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The clip of Obama was recorded in 1998 at Loyola University, according to Romney's campaign and fellow Republicans who are aggressively promoting it. It features the future president discussing what he calls a "propaganda campaign" against government funded entities, and suggesting better ways to make government more effective.

"There has been a systematic – I don't think it's too strong to call it a propaganda campaign – against the possibility of government action and its efficacy," he is heard saying in the audio clip. "And I think some of it has been deserved."

Later in the recording, Obama says he wants to "resuscitate this notion that we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking how – what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live."

He continues: "I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution – because I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."

It's those final words – "I actually believe in some redistribution" – that Republicans have latched onto, characterizing them as an endorsement of redistributing wealth, rather than making sure government agencies were well supported. Many conservatives argue redistributing wealth is akin to socialism.

The clip, which appeared Tuesday afternoon on the conservative Drudge Report website, was subsequently tweeted by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

When Romney appeared on Fox News later in the day, he made the "redistribution" video a central part of his first answer.

"The president's view is one of larger government," Romney said. "There's a tape that came out today where the president's saying he likes redistribution. I disagree. I think a society based upon a government centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America, that will not build a stronger America, or help people out of poverty."

On Wednesday, Republicans continued the onslaught, releasing a web video tying the 1998 comments with more recent remarks, including the "you didn't build that" line which has been played on repeat by Republicans since Obama made the comment in July.

It also includes video of "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft grilling Obama on so-called "redistribution of wealth," but doesn't include any of Obama's answers.

In the "60 Minutes" interview from December, Obama doesn't say that he's for redistributing wealth, but rather that he wants people to feel like they're being given a fair shot.

"Look, everybody's concerned about inequality," Obama said in response to Kroft's question. "Those folks in there, who were listening to the speech, those are teachers and small-business people, and probably some small-town bankers, who are in there thinking to themselves, 'how is it that I– we're - working so hard, we now have Mom and Dad working hard,' maybe if they're lucky, they might have two jobs to try to pay off their house note, and it just seems like they're treading water?"

In the 2008 presidential campaign, the "redistribution" argument arose when Obama told Samuel Wurzelbacher (known to most as "Joe the Plumber") that "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, claimed Obama was running "running to be redistributionist in chief." His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, went further, saying "now is not the time to experiment with socialism."

Matt Rhoades, Romney's campaign manager, wrote in a memo Wednesday that Obama's "vision for America is a government-centered society, where government grows bigger and more active, occupying more of our everyday lives."

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, responded to the "redistribution" clip in a statement Tuesday.

"The Romney campaign is so desperate to change the subject that they've gone back to the failed playbook co-authored by Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber," LaBolt wrote.

"Fourteen years ago, then-Senator Obama was making an argument for a more efficient, more effective government – specifically citing city government agencies that he didn't think were working effectively," LaBolt continued. "He believed then, and believes now, that there are steps we can take to promote opportunity and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot if they work hard. Unlike Governor Romney, he doesn't believe that if you're a student who applies for a loan you're looking for a handout."

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– Obama camp wastes no time highlighting Romney tapes

– Hatch might 'die before his term' ends, opponent charges

– Biden on Romney tape: 'words speak for themselves'

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • RNC
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. bob

    All this will do is fire up the rich who are already voting for Romney and no one else.

    September 19, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. Bill

    And Obama said this 10 years ago, not three months ago. Sorry Mittens, we will put a fork in you.

    September 19, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  3. MM

    This is the best response from the Republicans? It's like a child caught with his/her hand in the cookie jar - "well, he did this Mom!".

    September 19, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. Yonni

    Mitten starts recycling from 2008 election. That battle was already won by the president. He must be out of material.

    September 19, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. Anchorite

    So much for big tent party, so much for being eager to create jobs. He doesn't care for 47% of the country, minimum. Well he can stay President of Taxachusetts then.

    September 19, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  6. CitizenBio

    Out of the abundance of video recordings, commeth the ad wars, may the most comprehensive win

    September 19, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |

    Lame attack. These republicans are good for taking the President's words out of context. I find it shameful and pathetic that their entire plan is to decieve the public.

    September 19, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. ruth

    Nothing wrong with redistribution of wealth. Obama is he greatest president in US history

    September 19, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. jnpa

    Sorry GOP, that won't work – too little, too late.

    September 19, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. 6km North of GZero

    We've had progressive income tax (aka "Socialism") in the U.S. since 1913. Got anything new for us Mitt?

    September 19, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  11. Dave

    He doesnt say I believe in SOME redistribution. He says I believe in Redistribution. This piece is misleading and soft. if you put it in quotes; write it as it is said.

    September 19, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. rs

    As if raising taxes on the poor and middle class (as Romney/Ryan propose), and cutting them for the rich isn't "redistribution". Republican delusion on display again.

    September 19, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. Welfare Mittens

    Can you say Hail Mary!!

    September 19, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. KaosinBloom

    Who is running the Romney campaign? Iill-advised comments at inappropriate points in time, blatant lies and fear mongering. Taking one sentence out of a paragraph and hoping intelligent individuals don't bother themselves with finding the context of the comment.

    Can the Republicans not grasp that, in a world driven by social media and constant scrutiny, there is no room for the failures that seem to constantly befall the Romney campaign?

    September 19, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    The dictator has been planning his takeover of America, for years!

    September 19, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. yourmoney

    Yes- lets redistribute your wealth. I am in favor of the top 25% 70% of the taxes. Oh... that is how it is. My bad. I actually thought they paid 1% and the bottom 75% paid 99%

    September 19, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  17. RegRepub

    First Sarah to sink our actual chance at the White House, now we have selected Mitt to do it all again. Are there no qualified intelligent people in the Republican Party? Come to think of it the one we considered the greatest was actually a professional actor from Hollywood.

    I'm sorry to say this but I used to think we only pandered to stupid Americans to get the votes, apparently the ones in charge of the party are also included in this demographic now.

    I beleive it's another 4 more years of Obama, good or bad.

    September 19, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. keeth

    The GOP believe in redistribution too...UP.

    September 19, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  19. Larry L

    Anybody who has ever lived in a country that has no middle class believes in some level of redistribution of wealth. Otherwise, a society where a relatively few wealthy families lord over the masses and throw them the crumbs of the nation's wealth. Generations of spoiled, wealthy people exist without ever really needing to work and the true enterprising spirit of the society is sucked-away by the hopelessness of the economic reality. When those willing to work are given a real chance for success, and the middle class is preserved, all of the society benefits. How many nations with a high standard of living do not have a progressive tax structure? None.

    September 19, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. wolfpackbob

    Ten years later, this is exactly what Senator Obama told Joe, The Plumber, that he was going to do if elected. Evidently about half of Americans are OK with redistribution four more years later. I'm thinking those are NOT the ones on the giving side of this redistribution of wealth. This is old news but not news CNN usually chooses to cover. Redistribution is politically incorrect, particularly before November.

    September 19, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. Lar5

    Just what this country needs,Romney, an inarticulate reframing and flip flopping president to act as the leader of the free world. Or, how to accidentally start WW 3 by a dumb remark.

    September 19, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  22. Daniel Locke

    Clutching. At. Straws.


    September 19, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Taxes and wealth redistribution? THAT'S WHAT TAXES DO, PERIOD. It is INHERENT in the concept of taxation that wealth is being redistributed. For over the past half century, our tax system has succeeded in one thing and one thing only: redistributing wealth UPWARDS at an ever accelerating rate. THAT IS A FACT. It's time to stop it.

    September 19, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. Joan

    Do the Republicans really want to go there showing ten year old news clips? If the Democrats go back and show clips of Romney from ten years ago he's toast. Elections should be based on what the candidate stands for, what they have done, what they can do and who is the most trusted and capable. The Republican campaign seems very desperate right now.

    September 19, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. John

    He is talkin gabout the redistrubution of government sytems! Something they claim to agree on. Yes, more lies from the GOP, that is what they need to help them. Fools!

    September 19, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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